Customs Clearance Process – All you need to Know

Shopping from anywhere in the world has become easier with the internet. Most of the store owners are diligently working to ensure that they are adhering to the shipping rules and regulations. Getting through customs is one big hurdle, which needs to be done quite vigilantly. Hence before you start shipping internationally, you need to know more about the customs clearance process. So let’s take a look at it.

What is the Customs Clearance Process?

Any international shipment needs to go through customs before it is delivered to the customer. Customs clearance process is simply the act of moving goods through customs so that they can enter the country and reach the customer. Every country has its own rules and regulations when it comes to shipping. They have their import duties and taxes on goods that are crossing the border. These rules help to protect local businesses as well as earn revenue and protect the economy as well as the environment.

But again, what exactly happens at the customs office is something that remains an unanswered question in the minds of many merchants. All you need is a few sets of documents and some major things to keep in mind.

The Customs Clearance Process

Here are 4 major steps to get your packages through customs without much effort.

Firstly a customs officer examines your customs paperwork:

The customs officer examines the documents that are attached with the package, like the shipping label, the commercial invoice, etc. These documents must be accurate and complete. The commercial invoice is the most crucial one because it lists the contact information for the shipper, the receiver, as well as the export date and airway bill number. Here are some of the important documents that need to be present along with the package when you are shipping:

  • Purchase order
  • Commercial Invoice
  • Bill of Lading 
  • Export Packaging list
  • Airway Bill 
  • Letter of Credit
  • Dock/Warehouse Receipt
  • Certificate of origin
  • Insurance Certificate 
  • Export Licence

A Commercial invoice looks like as shown in the image below :

Customs Clearance Process

You can easily get a commercial invoice printed right from your WooCommerce store, for your DHL shipping service using the right integrating tool like the ELEX WooCommerce DHL Express / eCommerce / Paket Shipping Plugin with Print Label.

Remember to self assess your documents that you are affixing with the export items. It is important to self classify the items, their rate of duty, claim the exception notifications and the value of the goods.

Import duties and taxes are evaluated using the customs paperwork

The import duties and taxes vary according to the products, their type, their value and even the specific regulations concerning the receiving country. For import goods, the duties are assessed for the goods which exceed the de minimis value, or the minimum taxable threshold.

The shipping bills are then processed by the Risk Management System of the customs department, to ensure the correctness of the documents and then once verified will be given the Let Export Order (LEO). LEO is a green signal given by the customs authorities to the exporter when they have verified the shipment and are satisfied with the results.

Customs requests payment for taxes and duties, if it is applicable

When your item value exceeds the tax threshold, the customs officer checks whether the duty and taxes are paid or not. Again if the item falls under prohibited, restricted goods, then the charges may differ again regardless of their value. Another factor that needs to be determined is whether shipping is done with Delivery Duty Unpaid (DDU) and Delivery Duty Paid (DDP).

If you are processing your shipment with DDU, then for shipping carriers like FedEx, you can seek the help of customs brokers who can process the payment on behalf of the vendor and then get the package pass through customs. The custom brokerage charges are higher, as it includes storage fees, late payments and even the brokerage charges.

Get to know more about DDU Vs DDP.

Your shipment cleared customs once all duties are paid

Once the above steps are cleared, your shipment is ready to be sent to the customer. Shipments usually don’t get stuck at the customs, but again if it does, it is merely because they lack certain documents. Here’s what you need to do when your shipments get stuck at the customs.

How much time does your customs clearance take?

Usually, the customs clearance takes almost 24 hours. However, if your shipment lacks some paperwork, then it will take several days to get the package through customs clearance. 

Tips to avoid the delay in Customs Clearance Process

Here are some tips to avoid any kind of delay in the customs clearance process:

  1. Always declare the accurate value of the item.
  2. Keep multiple piece shipments together and label them individually.
  3. Ensure you attach all the necessary documents along with your shipment.
  4. Keep all the information consistent across all documents.
  5. List out each commodity separately and explain them with accurate description.
  6. Get a clear print of items origin /manufacturer details.
  7. Mention the contact details for both the consignee and the sender.

Final Stage of Customs Clearance Process 

The final stage of customs clearance includes the following:

  • Checking all the quantity of goods arrived, which includes the packing list, relevant documents and the invoice.
  • Verification of goods arrived and updating the same in the system.
  • Examining the goods as per customs norms.
  • In the case of certain goods like perishable or dangerous goods, samples can be taken for tests to be conducted.
  • LEO shall be provided for goods that fall under customs norms.
  • Any items to be shipped under preventive supervision must be sealed and given a “Shipped on Board” seal.

How to ensure you can print all the necessary shipping documents right from your store?

When you are shipping internationally, it is important to know what shipping documents are to be attached with the international shipment. When you are shipping, it is ideal to let your customer choose the right international shipping service that suits their needs and budget. Using the right shipping plugin will help you solve the problem. You can make use of the premium ELEX Shipping plugins, which will let you incorporate services of popular shipping carriers like DHL, UPS, USPS, FedEx etc. 

Customs Clearance Process

Is Customs Clearance ideal for your Business?

It is important to get your customs clearance done right if you are keen to expand your business internationally. Ace your international shipping with a clear and organized customs clearance process. When you develop a clear and in-depth understanding of the shipping documentation process, it will help you streamline fulfilment, and also helps to rule out any potential delay in shipping.

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